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For those of us of a certain *ahem* age, hearing the word ‘tulips’ can tempt us to start singing Max Bygrave’s 1958 hit, ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’. The opening lines of that great British entertainer’s song start, ‘When its spring again, I’ll bring again, Tulips from Amsterdam’.

Mr Bygraves could oh-so easily have been singing about Arundel because when it’s spring again, the tulips arrive…in Arundel.

Where can I see tulips in Arundel?

If you want to enjoy tulip season, Arundel is the place to be in the UK. This year, Arundel Castle gardeners have planted more than 120,000 tulip bulbs for a colour-filled tulip festival like no other. Against the stunning backdrop of Arundel Castle gardens, a sea of colour sweeps across the flower beds. 

Arundel Castle’s Earls Garden and  some of the 130,000 tulips

Arundel’s Earl’s Garden looking towards Oberon’s Palace

 

During the annual Arundel Castle Tulip Festival, 130 different types of tulip burst into bloom from bulbs, which have slept soundly underground throughout the winter months. The coloured flowers catch our attention, and their colourful names capture our imagination. Can you spot the Purple Prince, Curly Sue, Black Parrot, Flaming Flag, or Orange Emperor? Which tulip do you think is the Queen of the Night? We’ll give you a clue… look for the tulip flower so dark it almost looks black.  

Honeymoon Tulip

Where do tulips get their name?

Have you ever noticed that tulip flowers are symmetrical? It is thought their name comes from the Persian word for turban, which the flower heads are thought to resemble. Tulips, the bright, show-stopping flower in spring’s colour palette, originally grew in areas stretching from Southern Europe to Central Asia. From the 17th century onwards, tulips were popular throughout western Europe. So popular in fact that tulip bulbs were traded like stocks and shares.

Apeldoorn’s Elite Tulip

 

In 1636, stock exchanges dealt in tulip bulbs. Fortunes were made and lost as the price of tulip bulbs rose and then plummeted. Some people sold their land, valuables – and even houses – to invest in the tulip bulb market. In 1637, at the peak of the tulip bulb trading bubble, some single bulbs sold for more than ten times a skilled craftsman’s annual income!

Today, you can buy tulip bulbs cheaply, but their stunning spring show is priceless. With more than 150 species and 3,000 different varieties, there is a tulip for everyone. They are the 11th wedding anniversary flower and are often used in gift bouquets to send messages of love and best wishes. But be careful! Different tulip colours have different meanings.

Read on for our guide to choosing the right tulip for what you want to say…

  • White tulips symbolise forgiveness, respect, purity and honour.
  • Bright yellow tulips mean hope and cheerfulness.
  • If you want to send a message of deep love, choose red tulips, which symbolise eternal love and passion.
  • Pink tulips represent affection, caring, good wishes and love.

Purple tulips are resplendent against their green stalk – and they still signify elegance and royalty. For centuries, purple dye, which could only be made from a crushed Mediterranean sea snail, was a luxury that only the seriously wealthy could afford.  Purple became a signifier of status, so much so that in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I inscribed rules governing who was permitted to wear purple into English law.  

Tips for growing tulips from Arundel Castle’s head gardener

In Arundel Castle gardens, you can walk around the Tulip Festival from April 6th. Tulips burst forth from herbaceous borders, spill over containers and create an unusual, striking display in the Castle’s grass labyrinth.

field of tulips with arundel cathedral in background

Striking display in the Castle’s grass labyrinth

 

Arundel Castle’s head gardener Martin Duncan, who launched the Tulip Festival, with support from the Duke and Duchess and their family, shares his top tulip growing tips with us:

  • It is best to plant tulip bulbs in November so they do not rot in the ground.
  • If you are growing tulips in pots, make sure you water them regularly, so they do not dry out.
  • Tulips like half shade and half sunshine, so plant them in an area when they can ideally have both.
  • Whether you plant your tulips in a pot or the ground, make sure you plant the bulbs 4″ deep. This helps tulips grow back year after year.
potted tulips

Arundel Castle head gardener’s top tulip picks

If Martin has to choose two favourite tulip varieties, he will suggest –

  • Apeldoorn: a hardy bulb that returns year after year
  • Angélique: which has a gorgeous pink bloom and looks like a peony.

Foxtrot Tulip

When is the best time to see tulips in Arundel Castle?

To see Arundel tulips at their absolute best, you should plan to visit from early April. This is when you will be able to enjoy tulips throughout the castle gardens. Because Arundel Castle is home to such a huge variety of tulip varieties, the floral display will continue for a few weeks. The best way to make sure you see the tulips in bloom is to check out the Arundel Castle website (https://www.arundelcastle.org) for more information.  

tulips and water fountains with lion heads

Are you ready to sing now? Do you remember the start of this blog? And are you old/young enough to remember the wonderful Max Bygraves? Come on, join in…

With a heart that’s true,

I’ll bring to you,

Tulips from Arundel

potted tulips outside door in stone wall

Written by Barb Hogan, Visit Arundel
Photos by Charlie Waring

With thanks to Arundel Castle and Head Gardener Martin Duncan

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